Montenegro:Public hearing on evaluation of the EIA Study for the Construction of SHPP's Bukovica 1&2

River Bukovica originates under the Durmitor mountain, at the height of 1350 meters above sea level. The length of the river is 42 km and belongs to the Black Sea Basin. The upper flow of the Bukovica River is poorly populated, and in the middle and lower flow of the river, near the road, there are permanent settlements such as Donja Bukovica, Slatina and Timar. The water quality of the river Bukovica is A1 and at its upper course two factory plants are located for bottling drinking water (Gorska and Diva).

Based on the unique classification of geo-objects, given by the ProGeo Association (European Association for the Protection of Geoscientists), Bukovica canyon is proposed for putting under a certain protection regime as a characteristic form of fluvial relief. Bukovica river is an integral part of one of the 9 key areas for biodiversity regarding the project of the European ecological network NATURA 2000 establishment in Montenegro. The entire flow of Bukovica river belongs to the category provided by the Habitat Directive of the European Union, to the members of Annexes I, II and V. Bukovica river is a residence of a wall-endemic species of Rhithrogenic marinkovici (Steno-endem means that given species can be found only at that location).

Despite the facts for start of protection procedure, there is a plan to build two small hydroelectric power plants (SHPP) on Bukovica river. The spatial urban plan of the Municipality Savnik includes the construction of the SHPP which is intended for agriculture. There are mostly meadows and pastures and areas with forests and forestland.

The process of public participation in the initial planning phase of the SHPP project wasn’t acceptable for the community, there was no quality information and communication with the public that was interested for this issue. The information and the call for public hearings fulfilled the legal minimum, but this was not enough for the community to be properly informed, because it is a rural area that is not in constant connection with the electronic and print media. Because of this, the community remained deprived of initial information as well as of the possibility to participate in an argumentative exchange of views starting from the actual planning phase.

The local government in the municipality of Savnik was not ready to develop an informing strategy with the local community and to include them in the decision-making processes, but they openly sided with the investor regardless of the spatial urban plan of the Municipality of Savnik where the canyon valleys of Bukovice were singled out as a special landscape valley.

Environmental NGOs that are operating at the state level, assisted by the experts and scientific public have had a significant influence in terms of informing and organizing the public. With the help of these NGOs, which operate within the Coalition 27, local NGOs have been formed to address the issues of preserving the Bukovica river. Consequently, informing the public and local community about the planned project is improved.

A large number of participants at the public hearing concerning Environmental impact assessment study on the construction of small hydro power plants Bukovica 1 and Bukovica 2 held in Savnik in February 2018 is the outcome of good communication between NGOs and local community. Shortcomings and deficiencies of the Study were clearly made with the support of facts reporting that the community doesn’t want to build a SHPP on the Bukovica river.

The participation of the local community played a significant role because they were familiar with the terrain itself, because the heights of the water catchment and the machine building positions planned in the study and in the project and in other planning documents were vaguely determined and deviated from the actual situation on the ground.

The strong facts from the public debate led to the forming of a commission for the evaluation of the study, in which the representative of the NGO sector from the Coalition 27 participated as a representative of the local people, where, with 118 objections, the report was returned for refinement. The deadline for finishing is 4 months, however, by the opinion of the experts for quality refinement, a period of about one year is required.

Finally, it can be concluded that the primary goal of the investor was to implement the project of construction of small HPPs on the Bukovica river as soon as possible, with superficial fulfillment of the prescribed legal minimum neglecting the opinion and needs of the local community and scientific public, as well as the possible negative impacts on river ecosystem.